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Florida Gators Friday Night Lights recap: Five commitments, tons of talent highlight weekend

This was a success.


Florida's Friday Night Lights has come and gone, and just the five commitments from the weekend alone would seem to show that this year's event was more publicly successful than both recent ones in the program's history and than most expectations suggested it would be.

But that judgment doesn't take into consideration the waves of talented players that descended on Gainesville before and after rain did on Friday night.

So let's evaluate it based on the same questions we asked in our preview of the event.

1. Who showed up?

You want stars? Okay.

Two 247Sports Composite five-star recruits showed up at Florida last weekend: WR Nate Craig-Myers, who came instead of going to Auburn, and made the trip with brother and fellow Florida target Jayvaughn Myers; DL Shavar Manuel, who named Florida one of his three leaders and surprisingly omitted Florida State from that list despite being heavily rumored to have committed to the Seminoles earlier this spring.

The list of 247Sports Composite four-star recruits at Florida last weekend was much longer. Florida commit Chauncey Gardner was in attendance, and Alabama linebacker Jeremiah Moon became a Florida commit on Saturday. Demetris Robertson, considered by some the nation's best athlete, had nice things to say about Jim McElwain after his visit. A pair of four-star wide receivers, Miami commit Sam Bruce and uncommitted Binjimen Victor, arrived with 2017 Florida commit Jake Allen, so there were at least 12 stars of 2016 talent in that car ... and 2017 offensive tackle Kai-Leon Herbert might've been along for the ride, too. Four-star wideout Cavin Ridley came, along with a bunch of other South Florida pass-catchers. North Marion High teammates Freddie Swain and Jordan Woods took the short trip up I-75 to take in the event. Georgia defensive end Antonneous Clayton met Jim McElwain.

And so on.

The above paragraph is truly just some of the "big-name" 2016 recruits; It doesn't nearly capture the span of talent in attendance. 2016 defensive back Quincy Lenton, who committed on Friday, is within the ESPN 300 but not a Composite four-star; 2017 wide receiver Daquon Green, who also committed to Florida Friday night, was one of many big-name underclassmen to show up; 2017 wideout and super-athlete Donovan Peoples-Jones came down from Michigan to take in the show and enjoyed his trip; Allen, obviously, also counts in any estimation of elite talent in Gainesville over the weekend.

There was a ton of that at Florida on Friday, and on Thursday (underclassmen) and Saturday (offensive/defensive linemen) for the auxiliary camps, too. Getting talent on Florida's campus is good for the Gators, and there was plenty of evidence that the Florida coaching staff accomplished that goal.

2. Who showed out?

The single thing that stands out remains Florida commit Tyrek Tisdale running fast:

No other performances drew the sorts of rave reviews on Twitter or sites on par with the paeans to Stefon Diggs and others in years past, though Allen performed admirably.

But the real standout, in a sense, was apparently Texas quarterback Kyle Trask, who did enough to earn an offer that would prove committable.


3. Who committed?

Florida got four verbal commitments from 2016 prospects over the weekend: Lenton and Brett Heggie committed on Friday, Moon committed (publicly, anyway) on Saturday, and Trask committed Sunday.

Florida also got one verbal commitment from a 2017 prospect: Green.

But, well, there's a chance that someone else committed without saying anything publicly. Trask's Sunday commitment gave Florida 18 commits for the 2016 recruiting class, and 22 combined total public commitments, with Green's Friday commitment bringing Florida to four 2017 commits.

Yet Tisdale, unquestionably one of Florida's three most boisterous commits on Twitter (Allen and Gardner are the others), referred to Moon's commitment as Florida's 22nd.

When Trask committed Sunday, he was the 23rd commitment, per Tisdale:

Tisdale could be bad at math, of course, but he was also tweeting about 21 commitments on Friday, when it was largely assumed that Moon had committed to coaches but not made his commitment public. And Tisdale stuck to 23 when pressed:

So, yeah, there may be a silent commit to watch for a public announcement from in the near future.

4. Who's blowing smoke?

First: Nothing said by Gardner, a reportedly incredible shit-talker on the field, qualifies as "blowing smoke," lest we have to qualify everything he says as blowing smoke. He just says brash things all the time.

I love him.

Second: There's a chance Tisdale is blowing smoke about another commit. We won't know for sure on that until a week or two passes, I think.

But two things that I think are almost certainly more posturing than not are Manuel's comments about being an "SEC guy" and Clemson quarterback commit Zerrick Cooper's insistence that he was only in Gainesville to drop off another player.

Seen as a heavy FSU lean prior to Friday, Manuel said "I see myself as more of a SEC guy" to reporters Friday night, which prompted a thoroughly predictable FSU fan overreaction. But I don't think it's all that credible: While Manuel probably does have Auburn, Florida, and LSU in some order near the top of his list, he was close enough to committing to FSU in February for outlets to jump the gun and report that he had, and seemingly little has changed between him and FSU since then, though it's possible pushing for a commitment from Manuel then backfired. I'd expect Florida to stay in the mix for Manuel deep into his commitment, but I suspect FSU will, too.

As for Cooper, he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution Sunday that he only trekked (almost 700 miles) to Gainesville to drop off a fellow quarterback, Zeb Noland, but 247Sports' Luke Stampini wasn't buying it ($), writing that Cooper got a full-court press from Florida's coaches upon his arrival.

The original AJC story has since been updated with an anonymous quote suggesting a) Cooper did not take Noland to Florida and b) Cooper's personal quarterback coach further muddying the waters by explaining that he invited Cooper to come to Florida with two other quarterbacks (one of whom is "committed to an FBS school in the Southwest region"), and that nothing serious happened.

"I thought (the other quarterback) would be a really good fit for Florida," Avery said. "Zerrick came up with me, and we ended up meeting the staff as well. The one issue is that we did go into the stadium when we got there, but it wasn’t just about Zerrick. It was a group effort. (The Florida staffer) is really high on (the other quarterback), who didn’t end up getting to come, but that was the plan the whole time for (the other quarterback) to come and Zerrick to come with us. So, it was less about what they said."

Did Cooper talk to Florida assistant Chris Rumph? "He did," Avery said. "That is true. Nothing in-depth. Coach Rumph recruits in that area. It was just a regular conversation."

What about other Florida coaches? "They were around but they weren’t in the conversations."

Avery took responsibility for the confusion: "It was probably more my fault than Zerrick’s fault. He just went there hanging out with us. It was people going out and hanging out. That’s what the situation was."

With respect to all involved, I don't think all of the statements to the AJC can be simultaneously true, so someone's lying. And it's because of dumb policies like the no-visit policy held by Clemson's Dabo Swinney (at least in 2012) that force high school players and coaches into spy games to evaluate the market for players' services.

I loathe comparing recruiting (and, really, sports in general) to romantic relationships, but I think the comparison's instructive here: Cooper and his coach sound like they're spinning apologies to a jilted lover, almost, because that's more advisable than being honest about doing due diligence on a future place of employment — only we don't think of high school football recruits as prospective employees vetting their places of employment, because we have a lie we're fighting on. Cooper's coach having to conceal the name of another committed QB is stupid for the same reason.

If Zerrick Cooper doesn't want to come to Florida, I'm fine with that. If he does, I'm fine with that, too. But if he can't come to Florida and talk to a coach without it causing an uproar, there is something broken in the system.

5. Who stuck around? Who's coming back?

Jake Allen stuck around long enough to survey his domain:

But the more interesting player who stuck around on Saturday was Manuel. He looked drenched in IMG Academy gear in a Friday night picture, but the tweet sent by Team Tampa assistant Tony Medero and embedded above is from Saturday, and shows Manuel in a nice, dry "The Swamp" t-shirt. As mentioned above, I'm skeptical about some things with Manuel, but I have a hard time believing him taking the time to spend more than just a couple hours at Florida on Friday night is a net negative for the Gators.

We'll know more about official visit plans for many of these players as time goes by, but Robertson was one of the few who hinted at a return trip, telling the AJC Florida "could very well get an official visit."